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Authors: Gayle Eileen Curtis

Memory Scents

BOOK: Memory Scents
12.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


First printed in
Great Britain in 2013

By, Ltd., Marston Gate.




World Rights, The Feldstein Agency.


The author, Gayle Eileen Curtis

asserts her moral rights to be identified as the author of this work


ISBN-13: 978-


All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored

in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,

mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written

permission of The Feldstein Agency.
























To Christopher, with all my love



























































Norfolk 1950


              I don’t want another cup of tea or coffee, a sandwich, piece of cake or another person to say to me that they are sorry. Sorry for what?

The word sorry, at first, caused quite a lot of confusion in my head. Were they sorry that my daughter had died or that she’d been murdered or that they’d committed the evil deed? How can someone else be sorry for another’s death unless they were somehow to blame? I was always led to believe that sorry was used when you had done something wrong. Sorry, sorry, sorry. If I heard it again, I’d be committing murder myself. I’d had my fill of that tiny self satisfying word, especially today.

              All I wanted to do was sit in my daughter’s bedroom on my own, undisturbed and forgotten about for a few hours. I knew I was being rude, flouting the unwritten laws of funeral etiquette, but I didn’t particularly care. All those people downstairs, paying their respects, coping with their own grief as well as contemplating mine; talking in hushed voices as a mark of respect or as if they were frightened of startling the grief stricken.

              But what could be more startling than being told your seven year old daughter had been found murdered. Snatched and then strangled. Five minute wonder for a sick perverted killer. To then be told by the police that they were doing everything they could. Well, everything they could didn’t include bringing my daughter back alive, exactly as she was, untouched, innocent.

              The last few weeks had been filled with statements and remarks, as if I wasn’t there or too fragile to have a conversation with. And sometimes it was as if I was devoid of feelings, as our home had been searched, family and close friends questioned.

              And now the day had come to bury our child. I felt like I’d reached a milestone, the top of the mountain. I knew that getting to this day and enduring the funeral meant I could then grant myself this time. It had become a long awaited piece of light relief. A tiny spark, albeit minute, of something to look forward to. I desperately wanted to award myself this time to steal away, to lie in my daughter’s bed, her childlike sanctuary, and interact with no one but me; wishing I was an infant again.

              I needed to still my mind, face my thoughts. I’d cringed at every stark, raw vision as it entered my head. It had dawned on me that it would be better to make an attempt to face them. They were something I would have to live with for the rest of my life. It was like being given a box full of films that you had to carry around with you forever. Like another limb, a useless, damaged, painful one.

              My thoughts flittered from the funeral, to her tiny body lying amongst the leaves. Grey skin, tinged with blue. Her body distorted, broken like a discarded doll. The top half of her body exposed, apart from her grey cardigan, just covering her arms. ‘Remember me’ etched on her torso. Her skin purple and livid where the cuts had been made, with a kitchen knife, the police had said.

              I hadn’t been to see where they’d found her; I was already haunted by the visions in my imagination. The scenarios kept turning in my troubled head, tormenting myself, wanting to feel every bit of it. Surrender to the nightmare, which is what I’d stolen myself away for, to completely wallow in the horror of it all. In the hope that I would come out the other side a bit stronger and saner? My logic here was to do with knowing that bottling things up made everything so much worse and letting the floodgates open would make me feel so much better. It was a long shot and one that I knew wouldn’t leave me feeling much different than what I felt now. But a fraction of relief was far better than none at all. So my logic was to face all those abhorrent visions in my head, fearlessly and courageously, with the hope that I would somehow desensitize it all.

              I sighed as my mind drifted to the image of her lying in her coffin, her tiny hands clasped peacefully across her chest. A far cry, I’m sure, from the violent position that she’d been found in. I’d clasped her cold, lifeless little hands and become obsessed with them thereafter. Any parents most frequent memories are of their child’s hands, from birth onwards. There are so many photographic memories of them completing new activities as they learn and grow, relying on those funny little spindles to guide them and keep them safe. They are a part of them learning so many new things, touching and feeling their way forward. The best memory of those little hands for me was of them simply holding mine. The night before her funeral I’d woken up crying and felt a tiny hand in mine and saw the outline of a small figure beside me in the dark. I wasn’t dreaming; I’d felt her presence; saw it with the help of the moonlight through the window.

              I sighed again, kicked off my shoes and sat heavily on the bed. I stood up again, lifting my skirt, hitching my nylons down over my legs and feet. I loved that feeling of freedom after I’d been trussed up in layers and then crippled my feet in high heels. If only everything could be so easily released. So trivial a thought, when my mind rapidly moved back to the reality of the situation and what lay ahead of me. I swung my legs on to the bed and wriggled my toes. I leaned back on the wooden head board and clasped my hands together as they rested on my lap. I pulled her dusky pink eiderdown over my legs, tucking it under my thighs, wanting to feel cocooned, comforted. A thought dawned on me and I pulled my arm behind me and under her pillow. There they were, still folded, waiting for her return home to wear for bed; her tiny soft pink checked pyjamas. Waiting patiently to be filled and warmed up. I pulled them out and buried my face in the gentle fabric and took in the scent left by my daughter.

              As I leant back on the head board, tears flooding my eyes again, I felt something jutting in my back. I let my hand search under the pillow and pulled out a book. A book that we were reading together –
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
– she’d marked the page by folding it over at the corner, something I often scolded her for. I stared at the book for quite some time, running my fingers over the silver lettering that had been embossed in the pink hardback cover. It was ironic really that we should be sharing this fictional little girl’s adventure together when, so abruptly, we had arrived at a crossroads where my daughter was taken down another path, a different journey to mine. Somewhere I wasn’t permitted to go. She’d woken up that day not expecting to go on that particular adventure much like I’m sure Alice had when she’d fallen down the rabbit hole. Only, my daughter’s adventure was over and wasn’t anything like the one in the book we had been reading.

              I gripped the book and her pyjamas, savouring the scent left behind. It conjured up a clear, strong picture of her in my mind, and I wanted to stay there forever. I didn’t want to cry dramatically or rock backwards and forwards with my head in my hands. I just wanted to step off the world for a while and sit with the knowledge that my daughter had been murdered. That she would never be coming back. Growing up or growing old. She had ceased to exist. A decision I had no power over, one that had been taken out of my hands and placed in the palms of another.
































Norfolk 1989


Dear Alice,

              I don’t know why I’m writing you this letter but I am at a loss to know what to do. It’s a year to the day that you went missing from our lives, and we don’t even know where you are or what has happened to you.

              The world around us appears to have creaked back into action and life goes on, but not for us my darling. I feel that if I move on, I’ll somehow be accepting your fate, and I can’t bear to think what that might be.

              We haven’t touched your bedroom since you left, but to clean it and keep it tidy. I’ve washed your bed linen every week as normal so that it’s nice and fresh for when you come home.

              You’re getting quite a collection of Jackie magazines now; I’ve been and fetched them every week from the village shop as you would have done. I’ve often thought that I might bump into you there doing the same as me. But that would be silly because you would have come home to us if that was the case.

              You must have changed a lot in a year; you’ll be fifteen in a couple of months and it doesn’t seem possible. Daddy and I often try to imagine what you would look like now and if we would even recognise you. But that’s a silly thing to think because we couldn’t mistake our beautiful girl.

              I can’t express to you darling how much we all miss you and how we’ve felt our hearts breaking every single day.


Loving you always


Mummy xxx





Norfolk 1998



              Chrissie lugged another box from the sitting room and dumped it into the kitchen of her new home. She was fatigued and almost at the point of giving up for the day. She could feel every tendon and muscle in her body and her feet were buzzing and sore from all the physical wear and tear.

              She linked her fingers behind her back and stretched her arms feeling the immense relief right through to her bones. Deciding it was time for a break she made a cup of coffee and went out into the garden to survey the property she’d bought just over a week ago. Chrissie walked across the grass to sit on an old swing that was hanging from an apple tree.  She swung aimlessly round causing her coffee to splash down the side of the mug. She studied the Norfolk red brick of the cottage that seemed to have lost its lacklustre since she’d very first viewed it. A familiar feeling of knowing the house filtered through her causing an uneasy detachment from her present life. A fluttering of fear stirred in the pit of her stomach and she wasn’t sure if it was regret or just apprehension at her new circumstances. It had been a huge decision to move four hours away from the area she’d grown up in; leaving her family and friends behind. Divorce had been the trigger causing her to become aware that she needed to get out of her comfort zone and embrace the unexpected. She’d barely given it much thought apart from the fact that she’d be moving so far away from her stepchildren, family and friends. It helped that she had moved to a place where she’d spent all her childhood holidays with her parents and siblings.

BOOK: Memory Scents
12.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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